When I was pondering the re brand over the summer, an image consultant told me that I needed to share more about myself with my audience.

ERRRR, what?!!!

I looked at her sideways when she said this because though I am warm and personable, I consider myself notoriously private. So, in the spirit of taking this business to new heights, I share with you 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Me.

1. Though I’m often mistaken for JLo (before Diddy!), I’m actually a far cry from a Latina.  My Mother is Filipino Catholic and my Father is a first generation, Russian Jew (read: American). You can imagine the strife at the dinner table growing up! However, being raised in a blue collar, immigrant home, the most important value my parents modeled was having a stealthy work ethic. My Father retired after 40 years as a postal worker with 3, yes THREE, years of sick leave. {see my ‘About’ video to peep their incredibly fly 70’s style}

10 things you didn't know about me!
Me & J.Lo,  the Fly Girl!

2. I was reared in a small mountain town just outside of Los Angeles, and my childhood home was at the base of the Santa Monica Foothills. The mountains were practically my backyard and I never appreciated this until moving away.

Taken on B&W film during my last visit home.

3. Speaking of moving, I have lived in Spain on three different occasions and do, indeed, speak Spanish (like a gringa!). Living and working abroad completely changed my worldview and ultimately my entire career trajectory. Not so bad for a girl who never rode an airplane until the age of 17 (on a senior trip to Cancun, to boot!).

Granada, where I lived as a college student before moving to the Big Apple.

4. The first time I came to New York was for a very fancy advertising internship with MAIP through AAAA. Off the chain prestigious! I was 19 with car service, an office on Madison Ave (!!!), Absolut/E. Lynn Harris/Nivea as ‘clients,’ paid housing and a weekly stipend. Alas, I was turned off by the superficiality of it all and instead, reinvented myself to come back in the afterlife as an educator {slightly less sexy}.

PR parade
My first and only Puerto Rican Day Parade with friends from MAIP

5. After working in early childhood education for nearly a decade, it comes as no surprise to anyone that I am smitten with children. Though I knew life as pedagogue was fleeting, I appreciate the incredible international opportunities it presented.

south africa
On a trip to a township school outside of Cape Town, South Africa

6. One of those AH-MAZING international experiences was traveling to Japan on a Fulbright. The other was working as an English language consultant in agrarian India. Every trip abroad helps me appreciate how privileged we are as American citizens.

Madurai, 2007
japan 2
Japan, 2007

7. On a lighter note, most people find me witty and altruistic but would never, in a million years, guess that I was an athlete. I’m completely and utterly obsessed with the NBA (Lakernation!) and was captain of my high school basketball team. In fact, in 2011 I completed the LA Marathon on one of the rainiest days of the entire year!

After completing the run from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica in the pouring rain!

8.  In college I was in a sorority and whenever I share this people always ask if it was either ‘cultural’ or ‘academic.’ Negatory ghost rider! Completely social, equipped with the obligatory costume parties, formals and drama. And extremely hard to believe for me too!

Where’s Waldo? Rush circa 2000!

9. I am an only child but {hopefully} don’t possess any of those ‘only child’ behaviors. Fortunately I have a HUGE extended family and feel blessed that a village really did raise me.

10. Harlem has been my first and only ‘home away from home.’ I’ve come of age, built my business and fell in love, all in the village of Harlem. After living here for nearly a decade of my adult life, I dream steadily of becoming the ‘next big thing’ {in Harlem and beyond!} and owning an historic brownstone on Astor Row, with my partner in life, Jorge.

jorge and ilene engagement
One of my favorites from my own engagement session, taken on Astor Row.